Garden Photo of the Day

Small Space, High Diversity

An urban Puerto Rico garden packed with diverse plants

Antigonum Cajan sent us these images of his urban garden in Puerto Rico. He gardens in a small space with lots of concrete around but still has managed to collect 80 different species of plants from 43 different families!

I have collected  plant for decades; however, not until 2002, when I received my certificate in commercial horticulture
landscape management from the New York Botanical Garden did I start rigorous collecting with the urban asphalt/concrete context
where I live in mind. Most of the inventory has been collected on my walks or has been exchanges and presents, with very few bought in nurseries. I have propagated a lot by cut stems, seeds, and division. I do not like gingers, heliconias, orchids, bromeliads, palms, and lawns, which are in my view abused in many installations.

The advantage of 80 species and 43 botanical families is that I see very few broadleaf weeds and diseases, and mostly white flies, few snails and slugs, and occasional leaf hoppers. Since the garden is conceived biocentrically, I only use Capsicum frutenses (hot pepper) and garlic to spray when necessary.

I chose plants, trees, bushes based on their architecture. I am not fond of huge leaves, but I appreciate some in the right context. Composition and contrasts in color, texture, and size are my guides, and I often change things to improve the view. Vines are fundamental in my selections. I have many different vines in the garden, and they are great for various pollinators.

All my inspiration and influences in style come from temperate geographies, from people like Piet Oudolf, Clive West, and Richard Mabey. In the Caribbean archipelago, there is nothing happening in anything I have mentioned. It is paradigmatically dull. You find the same in a cemetery or park, in public and private places, since everyone buys at nurseries with the same abused selections. Most people here do not appreciate what I do, but I could care less, since no one else is doing it.


Abundant vines, like this colorful Bougainvillea (Zones 9–11) are key to packing lots of life and diversity into a small space.


More lush vines create terrific habitat for many beneficial insects.


The vine-draped walls surround a peaceful patio, where every possible nook is filled with more plants.


Raised beds are filled with many different plants, to maximize the diversity in the garden.


The garden is a great space for humans as well! Simple chairs provide a space to sit, rest, and enjoy this lush, low-maintenance garden.



Have a garden you’d like to share?


Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.

View Comments


  1. user-1020932 04/12/2018

    Lush, beautiful and ALIVE. I love your city garden

  2. Maggieat11 04/12/2018

    Great use of vines and plants to soften the look of the concrete!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/12/2018

    Your garden and your attitude are each very inspiring and beautiful...and, yes, I mean to include your attitude as a thing of beauty. The contrasting materials of stucco, concrete and metal scrolling make a wonderful supporting backdrop for the intricacy of your plant material.

    1. user-1020932 04/12/2018

      Mike, if you would write a book I would read it over and over and over

      1. User avater
        treasuresmom 04/12/2018

        Me too!!!

      2. User avater
        meander_michaele 04/12/2018

        Thanks, Jeff and treasures mom. The funny thing is that I suspect my joyful copious flow of words would slow to a sluggish reluctant trickle if I ever tried to organize my thoughts for a book. I don't think I'm wired for obeying a dead line. Ha, my gardening style reflects that I'm fairly undisciplined!

  4. duckcovegardening 04/12/2018

    Your garden is lovely - full of interest both in color and plant material. Keep creating and spreading your knowledge to widen people’s appreciation of the diversity of plants that can be grown in your climate!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/12/2018

    Love, love, love that patio!!!! Well, ok, I love it all. Totally agree with you - a garden should be for your own pleasure no matter what others do or say.

  6. sheila_schultz 04/12/2018

    Your patio garden is definitely lush, Antigonum. You must feel like you are in a different world when stepping out into the courtyard, it's all lovely.
    I just noticed the size of the stem for your Bougainvillea, it's quite the beauty!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 04/12/2018

      You answered something that I was wondering about, Sheila...what that big hunk of trunk/branching belonged to in the last picture.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest